Home & Garden

Garden center has unusual, distinctive plants

The Living Color Garden Center in Dania Beach lives up to its name by showcasing tropical plants in all their blooming glory.

It’s become something of a local attraction as a group of women stroll through the rose garden where red and pink hybrid teas and cracker roses contrast nicely with their glazed black pots. A mother pushes a stroller down the cement paths admiring the pentas, pansies and other colorful annuals. Two friends fill a flat-bed wagon with their selections.

“Here I see things that are bigger, prettier and much fuller than what I see in other places,” says Tracy Flett of Hollywood who, with his friend Robin Puentes of Fort Lauderdale, is replanting his front yard.

You also can find varieties you won’t get at big box stores, says general manager Steve Herndon.

The display area is sectioned into the blue garden, orange garden, white garden, red garden, pink garden and purple garden. Each is defined by the color of its pots as well as the blooms on display.

Rows of metal shelves hold colorful annuals. Follow the cement path and you’ll also find about a dozen copper leaf varieties grouped to show off their bright red foliage. Elsewhere, a rainbow of vines — including the unusual bushy orange flowers of the monkey brush ($29.99) — reaches for the sun .

There also is a selection of crotons as well as decorative grasses. Perhaps the most unusual offering here is the vertigo pennisetum purpureum ($12.99) with blades of a purple so deep they are almost black. And don’t forget the fruit trees — including a peach variety ($149.99) designed to thrive in our climate.

In a shade house, you’ll find plants that can’t take the sun. Think of the white-veined leaves of the odontoglossum gloriosum ($24.99), a Swiss cheese plant in a hanging 10-inch pot ($14.99) or pizzazz antheriums ($14.99) with their many red blooms.

Herndon explains that if you are going to keep these shade-loving plants indoors, you really should have two so that you can rotate them indoors and out. Or at least give your plants an airing every couple of weeks because they need the humidity.

“What happens to tropical plants when you keep them in air conditioning is like what happens to your skin in an airplane cabin,” he explains. They dry out.

This five-acre retail garden center was founded by Steve’s younger brother, Mark, in about 1990. When Mark died in 2010, Steve took over managing Living Color as well as Black Olive East Nursery, which sits on 18 adjacent acres.

It is a wholesale nursery that supplies 70 percent of the plants sold at Living Color. In fact, there are two full-time employees whose only jobs are to shuttle plants between the two businesses. So every time you visit, you’ll find something new and different.

“This place is eye candy for gardeners,” says customer Puentes.

Deborah S. Hartz-Seeley is a master gardener who can be reached at debhartz@att.net.